Thursday, 21 May 2009
Heiress-cum-urban-guerilla, Patty Hearst
Patty Hearst was an heiress to the Hearst publishing empire established by William Randolph Hearst (the inspiration for Citizen Kane), who was her Grandfather. Rich folks! On the 4th February she was kidnapped by some extreme hippy-cum-urban-militia types who wanted the simple, revolutionary things in life like the closing of prisons, an end to monogamy, and the destruction of "all other institutions that have made and sustained capitalism."
This was a big deal. But the bigger deal was when she broke rank from the typical hostage routine of things and started to side with her kidnappers. So much so, that she joined them in a jolly old bank robbery:
The timeline of her kidnapping is extraordinary. She was kidnapped on February 4th, and by April - 3 months later - she was caught on security camera (above), appearing to take part in an armed robbery of the Hibernia Bank in the Sunset District of San Francisco. Her journey from victim to apparent collaborator ("Tania") was... well, let's just say it was brisk. And all the while, the revolutionary-guerilla-whatsit organisation which took Hearst, the Symbionese Liberation Army, made ever-more slightly righteous but also slightly nutty demands - they wanted money. they wanted their mates out of prison. And they wanted a free food program set up for the urban poor of California.
Even for a multi-millionaire media bigshot like Patty's father, this wasn't so easy, and in the ensuing weeks Patty's public pronouncements, taped and sent for broadcast on a local radio station, appeared to side with her captors... until eventually she was directly addressing her parents saying "I don't believe that you're doing anything at all". This highly public drama obviously enthralled the press and public. No doubt it utterly confounded her father as well.
The best place for infos is definitely the PBS microsite for the documentary "Guerilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst" including a timeline, resources (the Rolling Stone 1975 article is fascinating) and a particularly bizarre and basic role-playing game called "What's Your Bag?" where you choose whether you want to be a revelutionary or not... like I said, pretty bizarre.
Anyway the whole story, played out in front of an unprecedented media scrum collectively shitting itself with glee, is totally compelling. It was followed by an equally compelling trial - Her unsuccessful legal defense was that she suffered from Stockholm syndrome (where a hostage develops an emotional attachment to their captors), and was coerced into siding with the SLA. She was convicted and imprisoned for taking part in the robbery though, and was sent to prison. Er, yay!
Here's a trailer for the film. It's pretty whizz-bang sensationalist, and it's kind of built on some flimsy first-hand-but-not-really-that-first-hand accounts, but it's a good watch nonetheless - not least for the footage of an interview-lite with... Gaby Roslin!
You can't embed the whole doc but it's on youtube - for how long? - in about 20 parts or something. Alright, maybe it's nine parts. Part 1 is here, click through to the remaining eight. It's a shame the contemporaneous CBS news broadcasts have disappeared from the site, as they offered a really up-close raw view of what went down as the whole thing played out, but the documentary probably has enough to be going on with.
Meanwhile, across the continent, the other Patty had her own take on things:
Anyway, yeah. Also on youtube is this interview on Larry King Live:
Bill Clinton gave her a presidential pardon, you know. What a guy!!
other things to do with yourself:
wikipedia the living fuck out of Patty Hearst
read a bunch of stuff about her trial
Marvel at this picture: